The best cops are always one step ahead of the bad guys.

A Waterloo software startup, founded by an ex-cop and a former Research In Motion executive, is now aiming to do the same with any competitors that pop up in the forensic data recovery field.

JADsoftware Inc. has released a pair of new products in their bid to make their software the industry standard for police forces, the military, government agencies and corporations around the world.

JAD’s offerings enable forensic examiners to recover data from hard drives that most users don’t realize they’re leaving behind, including evidence of Facebook chats, instant messaging, file-sharing and webmail activities.

“For example, you delete a Facebook chat and there are fragments of that chat stored on different parts of the hard drive,” Adam Belsher, JADsoftware CEO, told Communitech.

“The challenge is, they’re not stored in the original format, so they’re very hard to find, and they’re stored in obscure parts of the hard drive,” Belsher said. “We have the ability to not only identify where the fragments of that Facebook chat may be stored, but we can identify amongst all the garbled raw data that it is a Facebook chat; then we take all those pieces and reassemble it into the original chat.”

The obvious appeal of this capability explains why JAD has quickly amassed a client list that includes countless municipal police forces, the FBI, RCMP, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. military and a host of customers across Europe and the Middle East.

It all started in March of 2009, when founder and CTO Jad Saliba was still a constable with the Waterloo Regional Police.

Saliba, a former programming geek who had studied computer science at Mohawk College and worked at Waterloo software giant OpenText before he joined the force, looked around and found there was no software out there that could capture the seemingly fleeting data from chat and other real-time activities.

“I kind of brushed the cobwebs out of the way and just started programming again,” he said.

The result was a program called Internet Evidence Finder, which Saliba offered free of charge to police forces for nearly two years.

“He gave it away to law enforcement until January of last year,” Belsher said, “which was a brilliant strategy, because it got a ton of people in law enforcement using it and hooked on it. Now, a lot of those customers are turning into paying customers.”

Belsher, who left RIM after 13 years last summer to seek out a new life as an entrepreneur, met Saliba through their mutual accountant. They hit it off and eventually moved into Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre to build the company in September.

Thanks to its many pre-existing customers, the company is already cash-flow positive and “all of the business to date has been word of mouth, which is amazing,” Belsher said.

All the more amazing is that Saliba, a 31-year-old father of three, had done all the programming on his spare time while working as a cop – and after he’d spent 2007 to 2008 fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes.

When he finished treatment and rejoined the police force, he helped out in the technological crimes unit, but was ultimately transferred back to patrol last summer.

“I’d met Adam over the summer and was talking to him about possibilities, and made the decision in the fall to leave the force and go full-time with this,” Saliba said.

Since then, the pair haven’t looked back, and were the subject of a Globe and Mail profile early this year.

“For us, the most important thing is, how do we become the industry standard?” Belsher said. “We’re the leader in our space in the U.S., but we’ve only penetrated eight to 10 per cent of the market.”

This untapped potential is keeping them on guard for would-be competitors, but also moving forward with confidence in a Waterloo startup environment rich with resources and expertise.

“You don’t know what you don’t know, and what we’ve found with the Accelerator Centre is, there are just so many opportunities and so many resources to tap into,” Belsher said.

“We think the relationships and contacts and resources here will accelerate our success, and give us a higher probability of success.”

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